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May 19th, 2009
Big Oil is thinking small — really, really small — in its quest to squeeze more oil and gas from the ground.
A consortium of companies is funding research at Rice University, the University of Texas and other schools around the country to develop tiny devices 70,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair to gather information about oil and gas reservoirs deep underground.
Trillions of the minuscule hydrophilic carbon clusters, informally called "nanobots," would be injected into geologic formations thousands of feet in the ground and then pulled back to the surface. Changes to the chemical makeup of the nanobots would tell petroleum geologists valuable information about the reservoir.
The technology and the techniques are still in the early development stages, but researchers and the companies funding them have high hopes they could give a more complete picture of the complex underground structures where hydrocarbons hide.
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